Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Exploring the Highlands

This weekend we've been out and about exploring more of our new home. We started off in Nairn and as we were walking around we met this beautiful puppy who was looking after the van for her daddy - her name is Molly.

The bakery which we're yet to test out (I know, you're shocked and stunned), had some very scrummy looking treats in the window but I particularly liked the look of these Highland Cow cookies.

We headed over the Kessock bridge, which opened in 1982, towards the Black Isle....

....ending up in Beauly (the name comes from the French for beautiful place). This is a lovely little town with the ruins of a 13th century priory as the main feature. The monks that lived here were from the Valliscaulian order which originated in Burgundy, France. The monks lived a peaceful life until the 16th century when the Protestant Reformation ended it all.

Here's a few shots from around the priory to show you how lovely it is.

This tree at the entrance is over 800 years old - it reminds me of the Whomping willow in Harry Potter.

As you can see the town makes full use of having a famous priory.

This is the remains of the Mercat (market) Cross which was first erected in the 1400's and is one of the oldest surviving crosses in Scotland.

Arty shot of the ruins, headstones, and old trees.

We found a lovely cafe in a place called the Old School - it's a gift shop with the cafe at the back. I loved the view across the table (my beloved) and the decorations, especially the teapot lightshades.

On our journey home we went past a property that Ken thought was fantabulous - a plane in the front yard and several old cars hidden in the jungle of a back yard.

So that was our visit to Beauly - more to come soon. Until next time be good, stay happy, and treat yourself to a big piece of cake.

Pamela and Ken

P.S: Final picture - late afternoon at Ardersier.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Burning the clavie - an ancient Scottish tradition

So what did we do on Monday night - we wandered around the streets of a small Scottish town with hundreds of people following a barrel full of burning wood!!  Do you think the cold is getting to us?

It was a perfectly sensible thing to be doing and is done to welcome in the new year -   January 11th is new years eve in the Julian calendar which was changed to the Gregorian calendar, which we now use, in the 1700's. 

I've done a few searches and it seems no one seems to know where the tradition of burning the clavie originally comes from, so it could be Celtic, Pagan, or Roman - it's just a good excuse to have a fun evening and bring people together.

The clavie is a wooden barrel full of wooden staves and kindling that is lit and carried around the town of Burghead on the Moray firth in Scotland.  It is lit at 6pm and after a speech and lots of cheering it is then hoisted onto the shoulders of the designated carriers and walked around the streets.  Along the way they stop and give bits of the burning wood to businesses and households which is good luck for the coming year.

It's a really impressive sight - a burning barrell showering sparks into the night air, and people rushing along beside the flames as it goes around the town.  Reassuringly there were firemen and paramedics mixed in with the crowd, but thankfully they didn't need them. The men carrying the clavie were dressed appropriately in clothes that would protect them from the falling embers.

The final resting spot for the clavie is Doorie Hill where there are the remnants of an ancient fort - the clavie is fixed to its spot and then doused with more fuel which makes it a spectacular sight, and I couldn't believe how close people were standing to it.  It's then left to burn down and people collect the remnants for good luck.

Atmospheric night shot of the graveyard
So that was the burning of the clavie in Burghead - Mark it in your diary for next year.

I thought you might like this pretty shot that I took of the ice on our car windscreen one morning - it looks almost like feathers laid across the glass.

Hope you've enjoyed a look at a fabulous ancient tradition - I'm sure we'll find more in the years to come.

Until next time be good, stay safe, and explore some of your own local customs.

Pamela and Ken

P.S: To finish I wanted to share the below picture - due to the brats (Cookie and Muffin) we often frequent the local Pets at Home to spoil them with new toys and beds.  In the store there are a group of sparrows that live there and I love this shot of them sitting on the wild birds and cat food sign as it's a little bit ironic.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Beginning our highland life

We're quickly settling into our new home in the highlands and getting used to wearing many more layers of clothes. We have started exploring and hope to bring you some exciting days out very soon.

We went for a drive to Burghead and spotted this lovely graveyard which I'm sure I'll be clambering around in the future. It's a lovely place and the waves were thundering in making it very atmospheric.

We then drove to Findhorn and had lunch in a very cosy pub - there was no mistaking that we were in a Scottish pub as there seemed to be hundreds of different whiskeys behind the bar.

The below picture is looking up the main street of Nairn - very pretty with the Christmas lights. So much nicer than where we used to live, as our local council didn't do Christmas lights, they just did generic red and blue bulbs.

Our nearest bigger town is Inverness, and the shopping centre had beautiful lights up.

One of the things we're still getting used to is not having people living above, below, or either side of us, as all our married life we've lived in flats. Living in a cottage is fantabulous and the cats love chasing each other up and down the stairs.

Ken and the brats
New year's eve started out lovely with very calm waters in the Moray Firth - perfect for a long walk along the beach.

What you can't tell by this picture is that it was pouring with rain when we went into Inverness for the evening - the river was running very fast.

So like a couple of old fuddy duddies we went home and watched hogmanay on the tv in front of a lovely warm fire.

New year's day we were down at the beach again, but this time to watch some crazy people going for a swim - it was all for a good cause, raising money for CLIC Sargent which is the charity for children, teenagers, and young adults with cancer. We just cheered them on this year but who knows what we'll get up to next year.

I'm another year older and my beloved took me out for a lovely meal at the Classroom - great food and atmosphere. The dessert we shared was very decadent but worth it, and then I topped everything off with a perfect Bailey's coffee.

So that was a brief introduction to life in the highlands - more to come soon.

Until next time be good, stay safe, and have a happy and peaceful 2016.

Pamela and Ken